‘Freedom Swimmer,’ ‘F^¢k ’€M R!ght B@¢k’ among Aspen Shortsfest winners
International slate wins Oscar-qualifying awards
What: Aspen Shortsfest Award Winners Screening
Where: The Arts Campus at Willits
When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
How much: $12-$20
The 2022 Aspen Shortsfest’s Oscar-qualifying awards went to an international slate of films and filmmakers, honoring movies from Australia, Canada and France as well as the U.S. while the Student Short prize went to a Nigeria-U.K. co-production.
Announced Sunday, the awards capped a six-day festival that screened more than 70 films representing 28 countries. It marked the first in-person Shortsfest since 2019, following two all-virtual pandemic-adapted festivals, bringing 60-plus filmmakers to Aspen for the week for Q&As, industry panels, parties and events in local schools.
The Best Animation prize went to Olivia Martin-McGuire’s “Freedom Swimmer,” a 15-minute French-Australian co-production about a grandfather’s swim from China to Hong Kong. The jury called it a “strong and timely story about political turmoil, and generational handing of struggle against oppression.” An Australia-France co-production, it also took the Ellen Prize, named in honor of Aspen Film founder Ellen Hunt.
The Shortsfest jury awarded the Best Drama prize to “Ousmane,” a Canadian film by Jorge Camarotti about a Burkinabé immigrant in Montreal caring for his neighbor. The 25-minute film had its U.S. premiere at the Wheeler Opera House on Friday. The jury’s citation calls it “a very moving, refreshing, and original immigrant story setting a great example of family and in particular male kindness all while subverting stereotypical prejudices.”
The 15-minute “F^¢k ‘€m R!ght B@¢k,” about an aspiring Baltimore rapper in a battle of wits with his boss, won Best Comedy.
“Great title, super cast, super funny, very satisfying story about workplace abuse, drug testing, and the clever discovery of how to get revenge legally!” the Shortsfest jury wrote of director Harris Doran’s film.
Best Documentary went to Malika Zouhali-Worrall’s “Visitor Visit,” a searing 23-minute film about families connecting with incarcerated loved ones via free calls at the Brooklyn Public Library. The jury cited the film “for its excellence in storytelling that is at once evocative, intimate, and systemic, and its contribution to exposing the rot in the American prison system by presenting one institution’s noble efforts to work towards positive change.”
The quirky animated documentary “Stranger Than Rotterdam with Sara Driver,” about a little-known story about the making of Jim Jarmusch’s “Stranger Than Paradise,” won for Best Short Short.
“This is a great storyteller telling a great story,” the jury wrote, referring to narrator Sara Driver, “where limited and eccentric animation helps lift an absurd and eccentric story.”
The winners in all five of those top categories now are qualified for Academy Award consideration.
The festival’s Student Short prize went to “Egungun (Masquerade),” a Lagos-set drama by Columbia University fellow Olive Nwosu, “for its delicate handling of complex emotions related to returning to one’s homeland after having created a new life for oneself elsewhere, for its deft use of camera movement, sound design, and editing demonstrating a strong capacity for collaboration, and for the kinetic tension between its two beautifully cast female lead characters.”
The 2022 jury was comprised of film producers Mimi Polk Gitlin, Michael Fukushima and Valerie Steinberg.
The Youth Jury, made up of students from the Aspen area, Denver and New York, gave its prize to “Enjoy,” a British short about depression starring Hamish Patel (“Station Eleven”).
“We believe our winning film stood out due to its relevance and resonance across generations,” the youth jury wrote. “With recent events, and in our formative years as young adults we have each endured our own challenges and gained our own stories from it. In these difficult times, we have found that our pillars of support may come from unexpected mediums.”
And the Audience Award, voted on by Shortsfest viewers via paper ballot at screenings, went to “The Diamond,” Sweden filmmaker Vedran Rupic short about a man’s adventure after finding a diamond in the woods.
Along with those prizes, the fifth annual Vimeo Staff Pick Award — which includes a cash prize and the status as a Vimeo Staff Pick on the video website this week — went to documentary “The Victorias,” about performers from the Tenement Museum in New York during the pandemic. It is now free to view on the site.
Aspen Film, which hosts Shortsfest, will screen all of the award-winning films Tuesday night at the Arts Campus at Willits.
ASPEN SHORTSFEST 2022 WINNERS
The complete list of winners, special mentions and jury citations:
FREEDOM SWIMMER directed by Olivia Martin-Mcguire (Australia/France) – Winner
Jury: “Strong and timely story about political turmoil, and generational handing of struggle against oppression. An elegant marriage between animation and live action.”
THE SHAMAN’S APPRENTICE directed by Zacharias Kunuk (Canada) – Special Mention
Jury: “For its mastery of stop-motion animation, and the importance of sharing Inuit stories with the world.”
A BRIEF HISTORY OF US directed by Etgar Keret (Poland) – Special Mention
Jury: “For taking us on a compelling journey through life, from new love humor to middle-aged darkness. Powerful yet seemingly artistic simplicity.”
F^¢K ‘€M R!GHT B@¢K directed by Harris Doran (US) – Winner
Jury: “Great title, Super cast, super funny, very satisfying story about workplace abuse, drug testing, and the clever discovery of how to get revenge legally!”
THE DIAMOND directed by Vedran Rupic (SWEDEN) – Special Mention
Jury: “A real audience pleaser, totally unique, out-of-the-box humor, commentary on how friendship stands alone, and that friendship is wealth.”
WE SHOULD GET DINNER! directed by Eliza Jiménez Cossio, Lexi Tannenholtz (US) – Special Mention
Jury: “An engaging commentary on family connection, with great rapport between the actors and a clever ending.”
VIDEO VISIT directed by Malika Zouhali-Worrall (US) – Winner
Jury: “For its excellence in storytelling that is at once evocative, intimate, and systemic, and its contribution to exposing the rot in the American prison system by presenting one institution’s noble efforts to work towards positive change.”
NUISANCE BEAR directed by Jack Weisman, Gabriela Osio Vanden (Canada) – Special Mention
Jury: “For its innovative technique in both cinematography and sound, compelling storytelling about the challenges we face in balancing conservation and civil protection, and for its impressive access to the point of view of animals.”
THE VICTORIAS directed by Ethan Fuirst (US) – Special Mention
Jury: “For its fascinating approach underscoring our power for collective imagination, its unique portrayal of aspiring actresses dedicated to their craft, and for its contribution to ensuring our history remembers not just the rich and powerful, but even ordinary individuals.”
OUSMANE directed by Jorge Camarotti (Canada) – Winner
Jury: “A very moving, refreshing, and original immigrant story setting a great example of family and in particular male kindness all while subverting stereotypical prejudices.”
SOME STILL SEARCH directed by Nesaru Tchaas (US) – Special Mention
Jury: “Very important story told with great compassion, authenticity, and restraint exposing the horrific consequences of the tearing apart of families by ICE.”
DEAR MAMA directed by Winter Dunn (US) – Special Mention
Jury: “A heartfelt story with great performances asking the question of how we each handle grief and showing the importance of communication and connection during times of loss.”
STRANGER THAN ROTTERDAM WITH SARA DRIVER directed by Lewie Kloster, Noah Kloster (US) – Winner
Jury: “This is a great storyteller telling a great story, where limited and eccentric animation helps lift an absurd and eccentric story.”
DEERWOODS DEATHTRAP directed by JAMES P GANNON (US) – Special Mention
Jury: “A very funny telling of a family tragedy, full of twists and turns, that turned out to not be entirely tragic.”
AUNTIE directed by Fawzia Mirza (US) – Special Mention
Jury: “With a script that is modern and young, and that accurately reflects generational dissonance, we can all embrace our inner auntie.”
EGÚNGÚN (MASQUERADE) directed by Olive Nwosu (Nigeria/UK) – Winner
Jury: “For its delicate handling of complex emotions related to returning to one’s homeland after having created a new life for oneself elsewhere, for its deft use of camera movement, sound design, and editing demonstrating a strong capacity for collaboration, and for the kinetic tension between its two beautifully cast female lead characters.”
CHARLOTTE directed by Zach Dorn (US) – Special Mention
Jury: “For its impressive artistry, ingenious faux-documentary approach, and moving story about dedication to one’s artistic ambitions against all odds,”
SOFT ANIMALS directed by Renee Zhan (UK/US) – Special Mention
Jury: “For its hilarious juxtaposition between hallucinatory hand-drawn animation and self-conscious verité voiceover dialogue, resulting in an evocative statement about the things we don’t say to each other.”
ELLEN JURY PRIZE
FREEDOM SWIMMER directed by Olivia Martin-Mcguire (Australia/France) – Winner
Jury: “Looking to the past to offer insight into the present, this poetically animated documentary interweaves hand-drawn animation with archival historical footage. In this story of escape, a grandfather tells about his perilous swim from China to Hong Kong, as he encourages his granddaughter in her own quest for freedom at a dangerous time in history.”
THE DIAMOND directed by Vedran Rupic (Sweden) – Winner
VIMEO STAFF PICK AWARD
THE VICTORIAS directed by Ethan Fuirst (US) – Winner
Megan Orestky, Senior Curator at Vimeo states: “The recipient of the 2022 Vimeo Staff Pick Award presents a compelling parallel between how history has changed for immigrant families since the early 20th century, and how it has unfortunately stayed the same. From a unique angle, it demonstrates the value of placing ourselves in the shoes of our neighbor and the power of empathy and understanding in trying times.”
YOUTH JURY PRIZE
ENJOY directed by Saul Abraham (UK) – Winner
Youth Jury: “We believe our winning film stood out due to its relevance and resonance across generations. With recent events, and in our formative years as young adults we have each endured our own challenges and gained our own stories from it. In these difficult times, we have found that our pillars of support may come from unexpected mediums. From pre-production, story and character development, cinematography and the way it was tied together in post allowed for a very cohesive film. Various elements of design were considered and meticulously used to drive the story in an interesting visual way. The imagery of the cleansing water, paired with the sound design helps to create a film that is captivating for audiences. In addition, the use of colors which displayed color theory and emotion mainly through the costume design added to the brilliant selections made by the director.”
WARSHA directed by Dania Bdeir (Lebanon/France) – Special Mention
Youth Jury: “This year’s films did an excellent job of tackling large issues that exist in the world, such as identity, climate, family relationships, and more. This [film] demonstrated the themes that were prevalent throughout this festival such as freedom and self-expression. Most of its impact came from showing the courage required to be one’s true self.”
For LA-based DJ, avid snow boarder and TV personality Tyler Marenyi, better known by his stage name NGHTMARE, performing at Belly Up Aspen during X Games weekend is about as good as it gets.